HC Deb 31 March 1903 vol 120 cc696-734


Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)

said he rose with some regret to move practically the rejection of the Bill, with the main object of which he was in sympathy. The Measure professed to be a scheme to protect the honest producer and trader and the poor consumer; but that, he contended, was not a legitimate description. He considered that it was a Bill to legalise the sale of adulterated butter and to encourage the making of butter, by obsolete and inefficient methods. He proposed to verify that statement by a quotation from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. The President of the Board of Agriculture, in introducing the Bill a few weeks ago, said he was at a loss to understand the grounds of opposition to the Measure. He made the extraordinary statement— I really do not know where the opposition is to come from, except from those interested in the sale of an adulterated article."† He did not know whether that cheer was supposed to signify that he (Mr. Kearley) was one of those, but he would remind the hon. Member who cheered, that ever since he had had the honour of a seat in the House, he had taken an active part in promoting legislation in the direction of purity of food. He took it, therefore, that the President of the Board of Agriculture excepted present company from his observations. He would endeavour to show that the opposition did not proceed from those who had an interest in the sale of adulterated articles, but that the President of the Board of Agriculture was really the friend of the adulterator. The necessity for having a standard of the percentage of water in butter, †See (4) Debates, cxviii, 1409. had forced itself on the attention of the Government, and he was glad that the Government had realised it. What was needed was a definite standard and not the kind of standard set up by the Bill. The standard should be binding upon all. Some Members might take exception to setting up a standard at all; they might maintain that it would be a greater evil to have a standard than to leave the law as at present, because with a standard it would be necessary to have a reasonable margin so that the honest makers of butter might not be subjected to prosecutions. The right hon. Gentleman had recognised that and had pointed out that the standard of 16 per cent. was a very lenient one, because the average was nearer 11 or 12 per cent. If, therefore, the Board of Agriculture had made the standard of 16 per cent. a definite one it would not be onerous upon butter producers. There was always connected with standards the tendency to level up to them, but he was of opinion that the setting up of a standard was more beneficial than leaving the matter in a haphazard condition. If the Bill stopped at the setting up of a standard of 16 per cent. he should support it heartily; but it did not stop there. The Bill gave all sorts of extraordinary exemptions. In the first place it legalised for the first time the sale of an adulterated article. It would be legal in the future to sell an article called adulterated butter. That was entirely contrary to the spirit of all food legislation in the past. In the next place he took exception to the exemption from the standard of what was known as Irish firkin butter. Further, any butter which contained more than 16 per cent. of water, if it could be proved that the excess moisture was due to the ordinary processes of manufacture, was to be exempt from any penalty. He maintained that those three exemptions would be detrimental to the interests of the country, of the producer, the trader, and assuredly of the consumer. In regard to the first of these exemptions he pointed out that the avowed intention of the President of the Board of Agriculture was to kill the sale of an article known as milk-blended butter. But his contention was that by fixing a definite standard of 16 per cent. the right hon. Gentleman would arrive at his desire in a much more practical and assured manner. The only way to kill that nefarious trade was to prohibit the sale of that doctored article altogether. In point of fact the clause of the Bill which was intended to kill the sale of adulterated butter would not have that effect at all. It would be perfectly possible to continue the sale of that article, either by calling it something else—say "So-and-so's solid cream," or by boldly calling it adulterated butter, but adding "adulterated with pure, rich, English milk, churned daily, drawn from the celebrated herds of prize-winning Alderney cows."


No words but adulterated butter would be permitted on the label.


said he should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would show him any clause in the Bill in which that was set out.


It is exactly the same as margarine. Nothing but margarine may appear on the label.


hoped the right hon. Gentleman was right. Nobody denied that there was a certain demand for this kind of article on account of the low price at which it was sold; but the effect of the legalisation of the sale of this adulterated article would be to stimulate competition in the supply of it, and genuine butter would be displaced in the market. If the sale of this article was to be legalised by Act of Parliament it would necessarily have a detrimental effect upon the production of pure butter, and so injure the interests of agriculture not only in this country but throughout the whole world.

What was the position of Irish butter to-day compared with twelve years ago? Its reputation stood higher than it had ever done before, and it was able to hold its own with the finest productions from the rest of the world. Twelve years ago the case was very different. The industry was in a parlous state, owing to the competition of other countries, particularly of Denmark; Irish butter had lost its reputation, and other butters had taken its place. The trade in Ireland had never been more prosperous or progressive than now. The creameries system was spreading throughout the land. But all the creameries and factories would be subject to the limitation of 16 per cent., and, so far from protesting, there was a disposition on their part to resent the exemption of any particular grade of Irish butter. According to a circular he had received, the out-turn of this particular butter was not large; it was described as a declining manufacture, and it was stated that the characteristics claimed for it were ceasing to find favour. The House was in this curious position—that exceptional treatment was claimed for the smallest section of Irish butter, because it was made by small hillside farmers, who, with their faulty methods and lack of practical knowledge, could not bring themselves into line with the standard being set up for the rest of the world. But Ireland was not the only country in which there were small hillside farmers. The small farmers of North Wales were probably in the same position as those of Ireland, but in their case no exemption was proposed. The value of the butter imported into this country amounted to £20,000,000 per year; the total production in Ireland was £8,000,000. The £20,000,000 worth of butter came from almost every country in Europe, from Asia, Western Siberia, North and South America, and every part of Australasia, and the whole of it would be subject to the 16 per cent. limitation. He contended that the proposed exemption would be injurious to Ireland itself. Ireland, the oldest butter-producing country in the world, would have her reputation disparaged by this treatment, because every dishonest vendor of butter in the British Isles who desired to sell the adulterated article would declare it to be Irish firkin butter. It would be the easiest thing in the world to connive with some one in Ireland to send over an invoice every week of a single firkin of Irish butter, which could be produced when the inspector of the local authority sampled the butter and found the percentage exceeded. In every police court the fair fame of Irish butter would be dragged in the mire, and he appealed to those Irish Members who had the reputation of Irish butter at heart not to lend themselves to this exceptional treatment.

What were the views of those who had the management of the largest butter market in Ireland? The Trustees of the Cork Butter Market, in their circular, pointed out that in 1880 there passed through that market 380,000 firkins of firkin butter, which quantity had fallen in 1902 to 52,000 firkins, and they estimated the total value of the firkin butter as being not higher than £960,000 per year out of a total Irish production of £8,000,000. Of the firkin butter which passed through Cork market in 1902, coming from Limerick, Clare, Waterford, Tipperary, and Kerry, as well as from Cork, 93 per cent. showed less than 16 per cent. of moisture and would, therefore, require no exemption, while of the remaining 7 per cent. the greater portion contained between 16 and 18 per cent. of moisture. The value of the butter with more than 16 per cent. of moisture was only £96,000 per year. Was it reasonable to ask the House to grant this exemption for so small a quantity? He did not agree with those Members who urged that unless this 20 per cent. was allowed the industry would be ruined. He believed the makers would accommodate themselves to the new condition of affairs. If the suggestion of a time limit would meet the views of those who held the contrary view, he would cordially support it. He was opposed to the Bill, in the first place, because it legalised for the first time the sale of an adulterated article, contrary to the spirit of the Adulteration Acts; secondly, because in so doing it would depreciate the value of the pure article, and be hurtful to the interests of the producer, distributor and consumer; and, thirdly, because it was only by setting up a definite standard, with no exemptions whatever, that this manipulation would be made impossible, because it would not be profitable to continue it. He hoped Irish Members who supported the exemption would believe that he was not actuated by any feeling of hostility to their country in the course he was taking. He knew their country very well and he asked them to consider whether the advantages they would gain by this exemption would not be altogether overwhelmed by the disadvantages which must inevitably accrue to Ireland.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

said that this Bill had been brought before the notice of the House by the wrong Minister. The President of the Board of Agriculture was asking them to pass a new and most drastic law affecting one of the largest articles of commerce in this country, and in doing this he thought the right hon. Gentleman was out of place. Such a measure should be brought forward by the President of the Board of Trade, who would be able to look at the question from a broader standpoint. His hon. friend the Member for Devonport had pointed out the vast amount of commerce that would be affected by this Bill. He had told them that the imports of butter from abroad amounted to £20,000,000, and from Ireland the total amount was about £8,000,000 sterling. If they added to this the huge production of butter in this country, they would be driven to the conclusion that this was one of the largest articles of commerce handled by business men in this kingdom. The first objection he would urge against this measure was that it was not a simple Bill. It was one of the most pernicious examples of legislation by reference that they had ever had before the House. No one who read this Bill would be able to make head or tail of it unless he read the whole code of laws passed from the year 1875 down to the present year. Finally, after reading these Acts he would not get at the bottom of the position. A standard had been spoken of, fixed at 16 per cent. of water, but this was not clear on the face of the Bill. They would not find that 16 per cent. was fixed in the Bill of 1889. In that measure there was a clause empowering the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture to fix the standard. In the ever fluctuating Government which he hoped they would have in the future the next Minister might fix a different standard, and there would be no knowledge as to what the standard really was, because it might be constantly changed. For that reason they ought to throw out this Bill, and demand a more simple measure. They should demand that this Bill should be simplified, and a much plainer proposal made to the House.

The Bill was a great deal too severe; when they looked through this measure and referred to the other Acts of Parliament they would find it was a most drastic Bill. It proceeded to say that if any breach occurred of the rule laid down in the first clause of the Bill the penalties embodied as amended should apply. Was the House aware that the Amendment thus included was three months imprisonment with hard labour for a breach of the rule laid down in the first clause of the Bill. The House ought to consider whether in regard to a great article of commerce like butter it was right to expose all classes in this country who might happen to touch this trade to this draconic punishment of three months hard labour. All the provision merchants, and grocers, and people engaged in the distribution of food of every kind in this country would be affected. It would be very hard for any honest trader to be dealt with in this way, and they ought to consider how it would affect the customs of the country to impose such a severe penalty for an offence which it might be very easy to make. The crime imposed by this Bill was a perfectly new one. Great improvements had taken place in the manufacture of butter, and one of the main improvements was that they had reduced the quantity of water. If through any inadequate manufacture, for which no one could be at all to blame, the quantity of water got above 16 per cent. then people were liable to be haled off to prison for three months hard labour. This was a very serious thing to do. He suggested that too much severity in these matters defeated its own object. It might be said that if a man sold something which was not as represented he was a scoundrel and ought to be punished. In a matter of this kind, however, he thought it was much better to have a moderate penalty, and he ventured to suggest that this penalty was too severe, and would tend to defeat the object of the Bill.

The introduction of Ireland into this Bill in regard to the butter industry was really one of the most pitiful cases that could be brought before the House. They got more butter from Ireland than from any other country, and if Ireland only had a decent Government he was sure they would get twice as much butter from Ireland. Nobody could tell exactly how much butter they got from Ireland, and that fundamental fact was one of the features of the Irish situation. His hon. friend read out the story of the destruction of the great Cork Market. That brought a great deal of misery to those who supplied the market, and led to an extraordinary and lamentable emigration. They could not speak of the Irish butter industry without a feeling of remorse that this House treated Ireland as it did. Denmark was a great rival to Ireland in the butter trade, but the Danish Government took steps to have its butter placed properly on the market. They knew exactly the amount of butter that came from Denmark and Australia, and other places, but they did not know what amount came from Ireland. What they did know was that it cost as much to bring a tub of butter from Ireland as from Denmark. He thought the House ought to hesitate before giving another blow to Ireland by passing a Bill of this kind. No doubt the President of the Board of Agriculture meant to be kind and considerate to Ireland when he put in this provision that a little more water should be allowed in Irish butter than that of any other country. His own belief was that Ireland suffered as much from legislation conceived in a spirit of kindness, but without knowledge, as it did from coercion imposed by this House. If this Bill passed at all they should go a little further than his hon. friend had suggested in order to protect Ireland. He agreed with his hon. friend's principle. But when his hon. friend came to suggest what he would do in view of the exceptional position of Ireland, he simply said that he would give a time limit of a few months before the strict standard set up by the Bill would apply. He himself thought that should be enlarged. If they were to proceed at all let them take a somewhat lower standard. Let them take a standard of, say, 18 per cent. instead of 16 and 20, and lot that be set up equally for Ireland and for every other part of the country. He did not mean to say that that would be the quantity of water to sanction in the first qualities of butter, but when they were drawing the line they ought to give as much width to manufacturers and sellers as possible. He suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that he should withdraw the present Bill because it was too severe, and that he should bring in a simple Bill making the standard 18 per cent. If they were to draw a, line they should draw it somewhat broadly and leave an ample margin, and even then he would suggest that the penalties should be less than they were.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six month's.'"—(Mr. Kearley.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY (Limerick, W.)

said this Bill had his cordial support, because he believed that if it passed into law as it now stood it would be very much in the interest of pure butter. Clause I. of the Bill was as follows— It shall be unlawful to manufacture, sell, expose for sale or import any butter mixture containing more than 20 per cent. of water, and every person who manufactures, sells, exposes for sale, or imports any butter or butter mixture which contains more than that percentage shall be liable on summary conviction to the penalties imposed by Section 4 of the Margarine Act, 1887, as amended by Section 17, Sub-section 2, of the Sale of Food and Drugs Act, 1899. He had taken the trouble to read the sections of the Acts mentioned, and he found that for the first offence it was a fine not exceeding £20; for the second offence a fine not exceeding £50; and for the third offence a fine not exceeding £100, or, if the Court were of opinion that a fine would not meet the circumstances of the case, the offenders might be committed to prison with or without hard labour for a period not exceeding three months. He thought that would make for pure butter. Clause III. of the Bill provided that it would be held that any water in butter in excess of the prescribed limit was due to the addition of some substance unless it was proved to be due in the ordinary process of butter making. From these clauses it would be seen that butter could not lawfully contain more than 20 per cent. of water, and if it contained more than 16 per cent., which was fixed as the standard, the presumption would be that the butter was not pure until the contrary was proved. He considered that these clauses were very much in the public interest. They threw the onus on the defendant in the case of a prosecution, when the percentage was over 16 per cent., of proving that the butter was pure, and in that way they made it exceedingly difficult for any person to practice fraud in connection with this industry.

Referring to the manner in which the question of Irish firkin butter was being treated in this Bill he said he must disagree with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Devonport regarding it. This butter was made in certain districts in the south of Ireland. It was sound-keeping butter. It was made to keep for six or eight months. Being brine-cured butter it necessarily contained a larger percentage of water than butter that was made for immediate consumption. That was an important point, and therefore he contended that it would be most unfair to fix the same standard for that class of butter as for butter which was made in a creamery for immediate consumption. The brine-cured butter had a large market in the manufacturing towns in the north of England. Its output, according to the evidence given before the Departmental Committee on butter regulations, being between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 sterling annually. He held a letter in his hand from a commission agent in Manchester, who gave as one reason why this butter was popular in Lancashire and Yorkshire the fact that it could be taken by workers to the cotton mills because it stood the temperature better than creamery butter. That, of course, was very likely to make Irish salt butter a popular food with the working classes in these counties. Did hon. Gentlemen who disagreed with the 20 per cent. standard for this class of butter contend that it could be made with the same percentage of water as creamery butter? If they did he had expert evidence against their opinion. But if they admitted that it could not be made with the same percentage of water as creamery butter, then why fix the same standard for it? Professor Tichborne gave evidence before the Departmental Committee as an expert in this matter. He said he was in favour of a dual standard of water in butter. He suggested a limit of 16 per cent. for creamery and 20 per cent. for salt butter. He stated that if a limit of 16 per cent. were fixed for the article, the trade in Ireland in it would be extinguished in five years, because two thirds of the producers could not make it at that limit, and everybody who sold the butter would be subject to prosecution. Professor Tichborne did not think any administrative difficulty would arise from the fact that there was a dual standard. In his evidence the hon. Secretary of the South of Ireland Butter Merchants Association stated that since 1895 there had practically been a 20 per cent. standard prevailing in Munster for salt firkin butter, and that the magistrates would not convict on anything under that percentage. Salt firkin butter made with brine could be kept for six months. The chief advantage of brining was that the butter would keep sweet and good for six months without becoming mottled or streaky, as butter made with dry salt sometimes did. He had received resolutions bearing out what he said which were passed by a number of public bodies in the South of Ireland, where the butter was made. The public bodies included Limerick Board of Guardians, Limerick County Council, Corporation of Limerick, Newcastle West District Council, and Newcastle West Town Commissioners. A resolution was passed in North Kerry to the same effect as the others. The South of Ireland Butter Merchants Association had also passed a resolution with similar purport.

Now he came to what he considered an important resolution, in view of the fact that a deputation from Cork waited on the President of the Board of Agriculture recently and stated, on behalf of the farmers of Munster, that firkin butter could be made with 16 per cent. of water, and that outside Cork only about 4,000 firkins of this butter were sold. The Cork butter merchants last year passed a resolution. The resolution set forth that having intimate trade connections and otherwise with large numbers of producers of butter under the firkin system, they were unanimously of opinion that the water in cured or salt butter should not be less than 18 per cent., and that any less would operate injuriously to the producers of and dealers in these butters, and would be detrimental to the general interests. From experience they were satisfied that dairy farmers could not in most cases after exercising the greatest diligence and care produce salt firkin butter with less than 18 per cent. of water. They considered that the industry would be greatly imperilled if a hard and fast standard of 16 per cent. were adopted. He had been informed that the deputation which waited on the Minister of Agriculture stated that outside of Cork only 4,000 firkins of this butter were sold. To that statement, if made, he was in a position to give the most positive contradiction. Mr. Gibson, Public Creamery Market, Limerick, one of the best authorities on the butter trade, in a recent letter to the Limerick Leader said that the total number of firkins sold in six of the firkin markets outside Cork during 1902 was 33,164; and he had only that morning received a letter from Mr. Gibson which stated that in seventeen butter markets outside Cork 93,539 packages of firkin butter were sold last year. The Listowel Urban Council in North Kerry also passed a resolution in condemnation of the action of the Cork Butter Market Trustees, and stating that there was the best practical proof that salt butter could not be manufactured under the standard fixed by Mr. Hanbury—20 per cent. They branded the statement that only 4,000 firkins of salt butter were sold outside Cork as misleading. The amount in their district alone last year was 13,000 firkins. The Tipperary Board of Guardians passed a resolution since the First Reading of the Bill thanking the Irish Parliamentary Party for supporting Mr. Hanbury in fixing 20 per cent. as the standard amount of water in Irish firkin butter, and he had similar resolutions from many other public bodies. The only public body in Ireland which passed a resolution against the 20 per cent. standard was the Cork County Council. They said that the Irish salt butter was placed in the same category as margarine. That statement was ridiculous. Under the Bill there was nothing of the kind done. The Cork County Council also said that the Bill, if passed into law, would have a disastrous effect on the Irish butter trade. He disagreed with that statement. He considered that if the standard were fixed below 20 per cent. there would be numerous prosecutions, which would do far more to injure the butter trade than a 20 per cent. standard.

He now came to the Report of the Departmental Committee on Butter Regulations, which was appointed in 1901. That Report, which was signed by the hon. Member for Devonport, who now objected to a higher percentage of water than 16, set forth that the real difficulty which the Committee felt in arriving at a decision arose from the existence in the market of a particular article which would be injuriously affected by a low standard. The evidence went to show that the manufacture of the salt firkin butter had materially decreased, and was now confined to the south-west of Ireland, though there was still a definite demand for it in Lancashire. Yorkshire, and Wales, on account of its low price, distinctive flavour, and long keeping qualities. It was a peculiarity of this butter, owing to the particular method of its manufacture, carried on for many generations, that it contained a higher percentage of moisture than any other butter coming into the market. This difficulty, the report continued, would be met by fixing two distinct limits—16 per cent. for ordinary butter, and another limit for Irish firkin butter 20 per cent. The purchaser would be legally protected, provided sufficient disclosure as to the amount of moisture over 16 per cent. in the butter were made by the vendor. He wondered how the hon. Member for Devonport after signing that Report could object to a standard of 20 per cent. for Irish firkin butter. All the evidence adduced, and all the resolutions passed by public bodies, proved that this class of butter required special treatment; and if it were stated by the producers that it contained more than 16 per cent. of water, and we know it could not lawfully contain more than 20 per cent., it would comply with the provisions of the Bill. There could be no deception, neither could there be fraud, because the vendors to protect themselves would get a warrant in writing from the makers as to its genuineness. He supported the Bill also because it would go a long way—he hoped the full way—to stop the practice, which amounted to a fraud on the public, of blending milk with butter by means of a mechanical process in order to increase its weight and bulk. Anything which stopped the sale of milk-blended butter had his support. Under this Bill, if it was sold at all, it would be labelled "adulterated butter," and it should be stated that it contained more than 16 per cent. of moisture. Under these conditions he considered the article would not have a large sale, which would be no loss to the public. For all these reasons he supported the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman deserved the thanks of the public for bringing in this Bill, which was clearly in their interest. The Bill aimed at, and he had no doubt it would succeed, in putting a stop to fraudulent practices in the trade which had existed for along time. He heartily supported it; and trusted the right hon. Gentleman would stand by the clause exempting Irish salt firkin butter.

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

said he presided over the Select Committee on the Sale of Food and Drugs which dealt with this question, and made recommendations with regard to it. It was largely an Irish question, and he would consider it from that standpoint. He agreed with one observation of the hon. Member for West Islington, namely that the Bill was not a model of precision. It was a specimen of legislation by reference, and no one taking up the Bill could find out very well what its intention was. The history of the matter was as follows. The Committee which sat on the Sale of Food and Drugs recommended the setting up of a standard for milk and butter. A Departmental Committee sat afterwards to recommend a standard; and did recommend a standard of 16 per cent. of water in butter. That was to say that butter containing only 16 per cent. of water should be regarded as pure butter. The hon. Gentleman said he would prefer a general standard of 18 per cent. He objected to that, because the danger of all standardising was that the dishonest manufacturer worked up to the standard. The proposal of the hon. Gentleman amounted to this, that while it was admitted that ordinary butters could be made perfectly well with a percentage of water even less than 16 per cent., he would offer the dishonest manufacturer an inducement to work up to 18 per cent.


said that that would not necessarily be dishonest.


said that was a matter of casuistry.


said that the whole argument in support of this particular sort of butter showed that a higher standard should be admitted.


said that if the hon. Gentleman had proposed a dual standard he could have understood it; but to have a general standard of 18 per cent., where 16 per cent. was admitted to be enough for ordinary purposes, would give the dishonest manufacturer an inducement to work to the higher standard. The Select Committee recommended a standard, the Departmental Committee recommended it, and for good or evil it had been adopted. The hon. Member for Devonport complained of the exemption of Irish salt butter; but the hon. Member was a member of the Select Committee on the Sale of Food and Drugs. He heard all the evidence in favour of the exemption of Irish salt butter; and yet the Committee unanimously recommended as follows: The weight of evidence is clearly to the effect that any standard for water under 20 per cent. would be unfair to the producers of the butter referred to. That recommendation was passed unanimously, and that was the basis on which the Bill was founded. The Departmental Committee came to the same conclusion, and adopted a standard of 16 per cent. for ordinary butter; recommending, however, the exemption of Irish salt butter. Surely it was therefore now too late for the Cork butter merchants to make a protest. It was true that the trade in this butter had diminished. Why? Because of the extraordinary increase in the creamery system in Ireland. That was to be expected; but the fact remained that Irish salt butter was a great article of commerce in the North of England, and had special qualities. It was proved in evidence that it was largely used in bakeries, where no other butter could stand the temperature. Why, for mere uniformity, should they run the risk of crushing out this trade? The Cork butter merchants were heard before the Select Committee, and their evidence did not substantially differ from the evidence of experts. The Bill was not a model of lucidity, but read in connection with the Act of 1889, it was perfectly plain. It meant that all butter with more than 16 per cent. of water was to be regarded as adulterated, with the exemption of this small class of butter; and that exemption he would support.

MR. J. P. FARRELL (Longford, N.)

said he would support the Bill, especially the clause with reference to Irish salt butter. He lived in a district which was practically the centre of Ireland; even now there was a considerable trade in salt firkin butter there, and he should be sorry to see any legislation passed which would cripple that industry. There could be no greater misfortune than to leave the farmers absolutely in the hands of the creamery owners. He was not by any means inimical to the creamery system; but it was by no means an unmixed blessing, and it contained many evils which, he was afraid, would in the future very seriously affect the industrial development of Ireland. Near Longford was the headquarters of a large butter factory which collected the cream of four or five counties, and exported large quantities of butter to England. But although that factory existed in the County of Longford, it did not make an appreciable inroad on the salt firkin butter industry; and salt butter to the value of £16,000 to £20,000 was still sold in the open market in the town of Longford. He thought, therefore, that to deprive the farmers of what he might call free trade in butter by reducing the percentage of water to 16 per cent., would be a very serious thing indeed; and would leave the farmers absolutely at the mercy of the creamery system. He looked with suspicion on the creameries, because they were merely gigantic frauds worked for personal gain, and not in the interests of either the farmer or the butter industry. He regarded the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman with very great favour. He believed it would keep an open market for butter in Ireland and give the farmers a chance of competing with the creameries. For that reason, he cordially supported the Bill.

SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)

said he took a very great interest in this matter having, as Chairman of the Select Committee which inquired into it, heard a good deal of evidence upon the subject. He thought if the right hon. Gentleman desired to improve the quality of butter in these islands, and keep bad butter out of the market, the proper course to adopt was to make a standard and stick to it, because by so doing he would benefit the public by insuring that they had a proper and wholesome article of food. Therefore he had not much affection for the first Clause of the Bill, which allowed the limit to be extended to 20 per cent., and did not stick to the original 16 per cent. limit. Any expansion of the 16 per cent. limit was a direct injury to the consumer. He had great sympathy with the Irish salt firkin butter industry. He knew that butter, which was a wholesome article of diet, and he should be very sorry indeed to see it squeezed out of the market, but he thought the difficulty would be met by having a time limit for the introduction of the strict regulations with regard to Irish firkin butter. If, say, two or three years were given as a time limit, Irish firkin butter could be gradually brought up to the required standard, so that it would not come at once under the strict standard of the law. And if by those means Irish firkin butter could be improved it would be a benefit to the country; if it could not be improved the industry would gradually die away without causing any great hardships on those engaged in it. He wished to see Irish manufactures lifted up to the highest standard.

One of the greatest difficulties in both this country and Ireland was that the slow and sluggish individual action of the farmers had been beaten by the co-operative enterprise of the farmers of other nations; that co-operative enterprise should be introduced more and more into this country, in order that the farmers should be stimulated up to a higher standard. He was still less in favour of the second Clause of the Bill, because it introduced a new principle altogether. In all their efforts at legislation in these matters their first object had been to prevent deleterious adjuncts being added to articles consumed by the people. They wanted to take care that any artificial provision of food should be in the direction of not injuring the health of the consumers. The right hon. Gentleman's object in the second clause was to do away with milk-blended butter. Although he (Sir Walter Foster) had no sympathy with the man who wished to sell it as pure butter he had no sympathy with those who would stop the people buying a cheap article of food when they could not afford the dearer one, so long as the article was a wholesome one and contained only the constituents of milk and cream. Milk-blended butter was a wholesome and pleasant article to take and was better, in his opinion, than margarine, which in itself was by no means unpleasant. That being so he did not see why there should be any special clause put into any Bill for the purpose of stamping out this article of commerce. If it contained a larger quantity of moisture than butter should contain it could easily be dealt with under the section of the law which dealt with the matter. If it contained no more water than butter should contain then it was a benefit to the public because it came at a cheaper price. If these were not useful and wholesome articles of food sooner or later they would go to the wall in favour of better articles. He did not want, anything which the right hon. Gentleman might do to prevent adulteration of butter to interfere with a proper and wholesome article of food being supplied to the people. While he generally approved of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman in endeavouring to make butter as pure as possible he did not think he should interfere with articles of food which were not unwholesome in themselves. The second clause had raised a good deal of opposition in the country, and if it could be either dropped or modified in such a way as to allow milk-blended butter to come within the Act, and if the right hon. Gentleman could also do something in the way of a time limit or give a dual standard, so as not to interfere with one of the national industries of Ireland, he would receive his support to the Bill.

MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somersetshire, E.)

said the right hon. Gentleman opposite had condemned every proposal in the Bill while apparently giving some approval to it. He hoped on this side of the House, at any rate, some encouragement would be given to the honest producer and that the consumer would be protected against fraud. That was the object of this Bill No consumer required a large proportion of water in his butter when he bought it; he was quite content with the 16 per cent. There seemed to be some misapprehension in the minds of dairy farmers with regard to the proposed 20 per cent., but in his opinion they were misled by the involved character of the Bill. The important part of the Bill was contained in the second clause. The standard limit was 16 per cent. though good butter could be made with only 11 per cent., but in making a standard it was necessary to leave a considerable margin; when in the forefront of the Bill however they met with a clause which forbade the sale of butter containing more than 20 per cent. of water, everybody jumped to the conclusion a new standard had been made for English butter. Irish butter was quite a different article, and the proper way to deal with the matter would have been to put down two standards for the two different articles. He admitted that the first clause laid down the standard not for butter, but for adulterated butter. Everything containing more than 16 per cent. of moisture was to be called adulterated butter, and it was not to be sold if it contained more than 20 per cent. That, however, was not generally understood, and it was doubtful whether, having drawn the line between butter and adulterated butter, the Government should not go further and forbid altogether the sale of butter coming within the term "adulterated."

MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

said there was a general consensus of opinion in favour of the principle of the Bill, and most of the points which had been raised could be more adequately dealt with in Committee. He believed the standard of 16 per cent. of moisture was not too strict, and although he had urged that view on a former occasion he had had no protests from his constituents. The proposed exemption would brand with the mark of inferiority the great bulk of Irish butter. But he did not intend to vote against the Second Reading, because he believed protection was necessary for the honest trader and buttermaker. It was not possible for the Cork Butter Market Trustees to place their figures before the Committee of last year, because it was not until the beginning of the year that they began to take careful analyses of every package of butter. Most of the speeches in favour of the higher limit ought to have been made a quarter of a century ago. If in County Cork it was possible to keep within the 16 per cent., why could it not be done in Limerick? It certainly could be done if an effort were made, and to enable it to be done a time limit might be given.


I agree with the hon. Mem- ber opposite that most of the points which have been raised could be better dealt with in Committee than on the Second Reading of the Bill. The speeches of the mover and seconder of the Amendment were most contradictory, but I confess that of the two I agree a great deal more with the hon. Member for Devonport, because for the life of me, I could not gather whether the hon. Member for West Islington was in favour of, or opposed to adulteration. I rather thought he had a sneaking feeling in its favour, but the hon. Member for Devonport opposed the Bill, not because it is too drastic, but because it is not drastic enough. If the Bill is to be opposed on any ground, that certainly is the ground which would be most acceptable to me. I am as strongly in favour of doing everything that can be done to put a stop to adulteration, consistently with public opinion, as the hon. Member for Devonport himself, and my only fear with regard to this Bill has been that of going ahead of public opinion. If I have made a mistake in the matter, it is probably, as the hon. Member for Devonport thinks, because the measure is not stringent enough.

The criticisms made by the hon. Member for Devonport really embody all the objections raised to the Bill. He said he would support a hard and fast 16 per cent. from which no departures whatever were allowed, and pointed out that the cause of butter containing a greater percentage than 16 per cent. of moisture was frequently careless making. In so doing he attacked the idea of having any presumptive standard, and declared that the standard must be fixed, and that all butter containing moisture above the standard, whatever might be the cause of the excess, ought to be condemned. That is not the view that Parliament has taken. Parliament has not enabled me to fix anything but a presumptive standard. The only authority given to me is to fix a standard implying that butter or milk is not genuine if it contains water above the standard fixed. That is true of all the articles in regard to which I am allowed by Act of Parliament to fix a standard, and I think it would be very hard for the honest man, especially for a poor or ignorant man, who, through poverty or ignorance—with every intention of making a genuine article—makes a butter slightly above the standard, to be condemned without being given an opportunity of proving that the article is genuinely made. That brings me to the second objection which the hon. Member raises to the Bill. He complains that butter or butter mixture which contains more than 16 per cent. of water, and which, moreover, contains added water deliberately worked into it, up to 20 per cent., should be allowed to be sold, and says that this is a new departure. It is not, however, a new departure, because margarine is very much on the same footing. Hon. Members are aware of the kind of butter which was the main cause of this Bill being brought in, but I shall be perfectly willing to consider in Committee whether the suggestion of the hon. Member on this point can be met. The facts of the case are these: Colonial butter containing only 9 or 10 per cent. of water is bought by manufacturers of this milk-blended butter because that kind of butter is so dry that it lends itself to the addition of a large amount of water, and a large amount is added, sometimes up to as much as 25 per cent. This article is sold to the public not as adulterated butter, which it really is, but, on the contrary, as butter blended with milk, and it is represented as being very much better than the proper butter. That is a thing which this Bill will put a stop to. The hon. Member opposite is quite mistaken in saving that it will be possible for this particular firm, or those who make this milk-blended butter in the future, to describe it in the same terms which they have hitherto used with regard to it. That will be quite impossible. The Bill follows the analogy of the Margarine Act.

The hon. Member for Ilkeston argued that adding a large volume of water to butter did not constitute adulteration. I thought that was one of the strangest arguments from a gentleman in the position of the hon. Member that I ever heard, and he put it forward in the interests of the consumer. If there is one consumer who ought to be protected it is the poorest class of people who buy this butter, and the doctrine of caveat emptor is a very dangerous doctrine indeed. Even if the poor consumer is told what the percentage of water is he does not understand it, and therefore it is absolutely necessary if the consumer is to be protected against an adulterated article that it should be called by its true name, and that name is, adulterated butter. I agree with a good, deal of what was said by the hon. Member for Devonport on this matter, and I shall be perfectly prepared to consider in Committee amendments which will get rid of what seems to him to be a, somewhat cumbrous matter in the Bill, namely, this distinction between 16 and 20 per cent.; it is not a new standard, but simply a provision that butter may be adulterated up to 20 per cent. Possibly as the Bill stands, the compulsory term of adulterated butter might kill the trade. I am not so sure that that would be the case, but it will be well to consider in Committee whether, in the interests of the honest producer and the poorest consumer, it is not better to kill a trade of this kind by not allowing any adulteration of butter at all.

Then comes the question of the Irish salt firkin butter. This is a matter more for the Committee than for the present stage, but I think it ought to be remembered that this is by no means so small a trade as has been represented. I think the Committee of the Cork butter market have understated the amount of salt butter of this kind which is sold outside the Cork butter market. If it be true that only 7 per cent. of this butter coming to that market contains over 16 per cent of water. I was very much struck by finding what a large trade there was outside the Cork butter market. It is not only a large trade, but it is one in which many of the poor farmers in the south of Ireland are interested. It is a trade not only of importance in Ireland but of considerable importance in our own manufacturing districts of Lancashire and Yorkshire; and it would be a very wrong thing to kill by one blow a large and old-established trade like this. At the same time I should like those hon. Members from Ireland who are interested in this trade, and who are interested, as I am sure they are, in raising the standard of butter making generally in Ireland, to consider whether, as this is a diminishing trade, it would not be reasonable to put a stop to it by fixing some kind of a time limit. I am open to suggestions on that point. Meanwhile I shall have a good deal more definite information placed before me.

The authorities of the Cork Butter Market promised to send me suggestions in support of the evidence they put before me through their deputation, but I have not yet had that information. When I receive it I shall be glad to see whether it is possible to verify some of the statements made before me, which, I must confess, very much astonish me. I am glad that, on the whole, the principle of the Bill is accepted, but I shall keep an open mind with a view to strengthening it in Committee in the direction indicated by the hon. Member for Devonport. These are, however, matters more for the Committee stage than for the Second Reading. I am glad that the House is in favour generally of the principle of the Bill, and I hope that any further criticism will be reserved for the Committee stage.

SIR EDWARD STRAGHEY (Somersetshire, S.)

congratulated the right hon. Gentleman upon an improved Bill. He was one of those who desired to see this measure strengthened, and he acknowledged that 20 per cent. of water might be high in some cases. He suggested that it would be better not to have a sliding scale between 16 per cent. and 20 per cent. The question was whether any injustice would be done if there was no sliding scale. As far as he was aware, even under the present regulations, i.e., 16 per cent. limit, there had been no prosecutions of farmers for selling butter under the standard. The present regulations had been enforced for something like one year, and if there had been any grievances in regard to them the right hon. Gentleman would have heard of them. The fact that they had had no complaints in regard to the present standard appeared to show that it was a safe limit. This view was borne out by some very interesting experiments made at the Dairy Show at Islington in 1901. There were fifty-three lots of butter analysed out of the butter sent to compete for prizes at the show, and they showed an average of 13.28 per cent. of water. There were ten lots of butter tests also analysed, and they showed a percentage of 14.52, and there were eleven lots from the working dairy which showed an average percentage of 12.11. This showed that out of seventy-three lots of butter the average percentage of water was a very low one indeed. On the other hand it was quite true that there was in the case of one of the exhibits of butter an instance where the percentage of water rose to 18.65 per cent., but there was also an exhibit taken where the lowest percentage of water was 9.95. In regard to butter test lots, the lowest was 12.85 and the highest 16.90. In the working dairy the lowest percentage was 11.5 and the highest 13.45. These figures showed that butter, with one exception, came well within the limit. As to butter made by small farmers, and it was desirable that the House should consider whether the standard was not a little too high. He thought if they wanted something higher than 16 per cent. 18 was high enough. The hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division had said he thought this might be an interference with the food of the people. He agreed with the President of the Board of Agriculture that it was nothing of the kind. It was an interference with allowing the food of the people to be adulterated and "faked." The hon. Member might as well say that interference with the putting of water in milk was an interference with the food of the people. If his hon. friend carried that argument forward it would be very dangerous indeed, as it would lead to working men's food being adulterated. It seemed to him most essential that working men should be protected in connection with this question as well as producers and retailers.

MR. BOND (Nottingham, E.)

said he intervened in the debate because he had received a petition, with reference to the Bill, signed by a number of the inhabitants of Nottingham. Judging from the signatures and addresses of the petitioners, they were people of the poorer class. What they said was that they had learned that the avowed object of the Bill was to prevent the sale of milk-blended butter by giving it the obnoxious and offensive title of adulterated butter. They asserted that they had for a long time bought milk-blended butter, knowing what they were buying, and preferred it as a cheaper article. That petition showed that these people were in the habit of buying milk-blended butter, that they knew it was not the ordinary butter of commerce, and that for reasons of their own—among them that it was suited to their palates and cheaper—they preferred to buy the milk-blended to the ordinary butter. Then why in the world should not the present practice continue? Why should these people be deprived of the article they wanted? As he understood the matter, the Adulteration Acts were intended to prevent consumers of food from being poisoned or cheated. They could not say that this milk-blended butter would poison people, and the question of fraud had been dealt with in the Court of Appeal, and it had been decided that there was no fraud at all in the matter of milk-blended butter, for it had been found to be in accordance with its description, and that the consumers were not taken in. Under the circumstances he thought there was a great deal in the remarks of the hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division. He thought they ought to pause long before sanctioning the Second Reading of a Bill which, if it were once allowed to pass, would cause milk-blended butter to lose its raison d'être. The Bill proposed a wholly unnecessary departure. If the hon. Member for Devonport went to a division he should vote with him, though not for the reasons which he gave.

MR. CULLINAN (Tipperary, S.)

said he met the hon. Member for Devonport in his own county in Ireland some years ago, and from the interest he took in the butter trade then, he was sure that he was acting with the best intentions in the course he was taking with regard to this matter. But, after all, those who were immediately concerned were those whose appeals should receive greatest consideration. In a portion of his constituency there was perhaps the finest butter-producing land in the world. It was generally known as the Golden Bay. In that district they certainly had a good many creameries in which mild-cured butter was manufactured, but, at the same time, there were a great many farmers who were still manufacturing salt butter, and who preferred the old system to the new system in operation in the creamery. He knew a number of farmers who for a while sent milk to the creameries, and who now treated it in the ordinary manner because they found it was more remunerative to do so. Most extraordinary efforts used to be made by the co-operative creameries to force all into their factories, and to leave the farmers no option. He held that it would be highly injurious to the dairy farmers of Ireland if they were to limit the production of butter to these co-operative societies. The fact of the farmers being able to manufacture their own butter was a guarantee that the trade would not be seriously injured. Irish salt butter was a speciality, and there was no other butter in the world could compete with it. They had every reason to be thankful to the President of the Board of Agriculture for having taken up this question. He was rather disappointed to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he would consider some Amendments on the Bill in view of what had been said by the hon. Member for Devonport. The right hon. Gentleman said he would consider the suggestion as to putting on a limit. That was a very serious matter. He had admitted that the Cork deputation had put forward some information which was not correct. If the right hon. Gentleman was going to receive information from the Cork deputation, the hon. Member hoped he would give those who supported the Bill an opportunity of supplying information later on.

MR. MCGOVERN (Cavan, W.)

said that if a stranger had entered the House and listened to the debate he might have imagined that there was no butter made except in Cork and Limerick. He came from a district where much interest was taken in this question, and where as good butter was made as in Cork or Limerick. In those two counties, which were occupied by small dairy farmers, a large quantity of butter was made under the old system, although there were also a large number of creameries. He agreed with the hon. Member for Devonport in what he said in regard to adulterated butter, but he disagreed with him in the statement that the Irish farmers purposely adulterated their butter with water. They could not have the same amount of water in the butter made in various districts of the country. The weather and the temperature had a great effect, and no matter what a farmer might do he would have to leave more water in his butter at one time than at another. He thought it unfortunate that there should be two standards for Irish butter. There should be a uniform standard. He thought 16 per cent. was too low and 20 per cent. too high, and if the standard were made 18 per cent. he believed it would meet the views of that part of the country he represented.

MR. GEORGE WHITELEY (Yorkshire, W. R., Pudsey)

said that he did not wish to give a silent vote. Along with many other hon. Members he had experienced a good deal of difficulty in making up his mind whether to support or to oppose this Bill. He had, however, come to the same conclusion as the hon. Member for Devonport, but for entirely different reasons. It was not often that he could give even a qualified support to an Agricultural Bill of the present Government, and he acknowledged that some restrictions should be put on the amount of water in butter offered for sale as butter. They were all agreed that if the working man desired to buy butter he should be enabled to do so, and not incur the danger of having to pay for a great amount of water. But a great amount of Irish salt butter was sold in Lancashire—he had known of that from childhood—and the House should be very chary in doing anything to prevent the sale of that article. He objected to the use of the words "adulterated butter" in Clause 2. It appeared to him that these were most unfortunate words. They did not strike at water, but at something else—milk-blended butter. Why should a stigma be put on a good article of food which was cheap enough to be within the reach of all the people in the country? If the right hon. Gentleman was going to enforce the sale of milk-blended butter as adulterated butter, it would practically stop the sale of that article, because they all knew the working man objected to the word "adulterated." The hon. Member for Somerset said that the working man ought to be protected from adulteration, but if the working man was told that he was buying water-logged butter or milk-blended butter he would not be imposed upon. It was all a question of price. These articles were in every respect excellent articles of food, and he most strongly protested against the insertion of the words "adulterated butter" with the view of stopping their sale. If the right hon. Gentleman would say now that he had an open mind in regard to the use of the words "adulterated butter," he would gladly vote for the Second Reading of the Bill; but he was afraid that the right hon. Gentleman had not an open but a closed mind in this regard; and for these reasons he would most unwillingly have to vote against the Bill.


thought that all Mould agree that the aim of this Bill was one which should be supported from every quarter of the House—viz., to put a stop to the sale of adulterated butter. But he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture would give him some assurance that he would insert a clause to enable sanitary inspectors to' take, at any place, samples of butter or butter mixture which they considered might be of an adulterated character, and thus protect the retail sellers in the Metropolis. The Corporation of London, as the sanitary authority, already possessed powers to enable their sanitary inspectors to take samples of milk when those samples seemed by them likely to be injurious to health and life; and he should like to see all sanitary authorities granted similar powers in regard to butter and butter-mixtures. The public would thus be protected and the authorities would be able to strike home at those who were realy responsible for sending adulterated articles into the market.

MR. LUNDON (Limerick, E.)

said that the adulteration of butter and food supplies of every kind was very prevalent in England, and they did not seem to know where to stop or draw the line of demarcation. It would have been better for Ireland if margarine and blended butter had never been seen either there or in England. Butter by itself was not poisonous, and milk by itself was not poisonous; but when the two elements were put together, and the compound kept for two or three weeks, the amount of milk in it must soon become poisonous. Hon. Gentlemen would not like to have such butter on their own tables, but they were quite ready to say, "Let the working men have it." He spoke on this matter not only his own opinion but that of very many farmers' clubs, boards of guardians, and district councils in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary. From the lordly Shannon to the Devil's Bit there was an area of over 600 square miles which contained only four creameries. What would happen to the farmers in that territory if Irish salt butter was not exempted? Why should the Minister for Agriculture introduce a time limit? It was put in to show that the farmers in Munster were slovenly, and were not prepared to take the times as they came; and, later, lecturers from Mr. Horace Plunkett's Department would be sent round to enlighten them. They had been making Irish firkin butter in Munster for a hundred years which defied all the competition of the English markets. These farmers had abandoned the old brown firkins, and now used white firkins. Everything was washed and properly prepared; and there was a great improvement all round. It might be possible that when railways were introduced into that part of Ireland to which he referred the promoters of creameries would decide to build creameries in the districts concerned; but when the creameries were built, the cost of the carriage of the cream and of the butter would have to be borne by the farmers, who would be bled through the nose.

When the Bill was before the House last session, a man wrote to him and asked if he intended to put the seal of dishonesty on dishonest butter. He wrote back and asked his correspondent if there was any creamery in his locality, but his correspondent did not reply. He then wrote to some friends in the locality, and found that his correspondent was connected with a creamery for which he did all the cartage; and, of course, he was prepared to say that black was white in favour of the people who employed him. Within the last forty-eight hours he had received a communication in direct contravention to all the other commmunications he had received, to the effect that Irish salt firkin butter could be made at the 16 per cent. standard. He replied that he did not wish to be insulted. He, however, wished to get behind the curtain and see who was there. It was the capitalist; he was everywhere in this fight. It was all a question of money, and a struggle between the capitalist and the poor unfortunate farmer. Every impostor in the world used the working man as his theme. Money was everything. Money was the motive power, the greatest power on this earth. It was responsible for everything that was wrong; and it was the motive power behind the opposition to this Bill. The capitalist could get every agency under Heaven to prove that he was right, and that everyone else was wrong. He saw in the Press recently a report of a deputation which represented the views of the Cork butter merchants to the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman was all candour; and he very candidly said that he discounted a great deal of what had been stated by the deputation. Some of their statements were grossly misleading; some were more or less true; but one at least was a downright falsehood. The deputation represented that a certain number of firkins containing Irish salt butter passed through their market every year; and that only 7 per cent. were over the 16 per cent. standard. He would tell hon. Members for their edification that very little salt butter was made in Cork at all. The butter there was composition butter, taken over by factory men, and put before the world by the Cork merchants as genuine Irish salt firkin butter.

The reasons why he supported the exemption of Irish salt firkin butter were numerous. For the most part the makers were poor farmers, many of them the poorest of the poor. In his own part of the country very few farmers were engaged in the industry, except the farmers who had turned away from the creameries. But there were other parts of Limerick and Glare not so favoured by Nature, consisting mainly of mountain bog, on which it was impossible to make butter on the 16 per cent. standard. If the farmers in these districts were deprived of their industry they would be thrown on the world. Forty or fifty years ago, when Ireland had 9,000,000 inhabitants, the farmers could raise, with the help of their sons, oats, barley, and in some districts wheat. But that day had passed, and would not return. The farmers' sons went to America to make their livelihood there. Some of the daughters were also in America and others were at home. But if they were deprived of this industry, what chance would the farmers have of making their living? At present, under the creamery system, boys were deprived of their education by having to spend half-a-day in taking milk to the creamery. This was a go-a-head age. They had now under-water machines, and machines that almost flew to Heaven; but in Ireland there were boys, who ought to be at school, driving donkeys, jennets, and horses to the creameries. Meantime, the creameries were playing pitch-and-toss with the farmers' interests, and the result was that there were lads of sixteen or seventeen years of age who were fit for nothing but the Militia. There were Militiamen by the thousand in the country, who not only could not use a pen, but who could not handle a flail or a hook.


The hon. Member must pay more attention to the Bill before the House. He is rather wandering from the subject.


said that the Bill reminded him of the Procrustean bed, where the legs of the captives laid on it were cut off by the tyrant if they were too long.


I must ask the hon. Member to discuss the Bill before the House, which deals with adulterated butter.


said he only mentioned the Procrustean bed as an illustration of what the Bill was like. There were methods of destroying Ireland in every shape and form. One was landlordism; and now there was this attempt to destroy the Irish salt firkin butter, with the result that the farmers were between the Scylla of landlordism and the Charybdis of the gombeen merchant with his 16 per cent. standard. He would show that a revolution was possible in Ireland over this butter question.


It will not be in order for the hon. Member to enter into that.


said he did not intend to roam at large over the whole question, but he would inform the President of the Board of Agriculture that the time limit was a dangerous and insidious attempt to accomplish what would otherwise not have been possible. It was an all-round age of progress. Chemicals and electricity now ruled the world. It was even said that the deleterious matter in butter could be removed by the aid of chemicals, and that farmers could reduce the salt they used in butter from four pounds a firkin to two pounds. He did not think, however, that that was likely to occur in the immediate future, and he would impress on the Minister for Agriculture that the views of the supporters of the time limit were false and insidious.

MR. GILHOOLY (Cork County, W.)

said they had heard a great deal of rail-way facilities being required under the Bill, and of the impossibility of adopting the 16 per cent. standard in the Cork districts. He came from West Cork, and although some portions of his constituency were distant from the railway, the people were entirely in favour of the 16 per cent. standard. Twenty-five years ago the people of West Cork had an antiquated system of making heavily-salted butter, but in order to compete with other farmers they abandoned that system, and now made butter that could command the best prices. He had received letters from merchants doing enormous business, who declared in favour of a 16 per cent. standard, and in one instance the writer had asserted that butter could be made at 12 per cent. The information given by the Trustees of Cork Market had been challenged, but before the Bill passed though Committee, those Gentlemen would satisfy the President of the Board of Trade of the accuracy of their statements, and that the information he had recently received was not correct. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman if in addition to the time limit he would allow the Cork Trustees to retain the 16 per cent. standard as the proper one for their brand, and to refuse any butter in the market over that standard. They believed it would be a retrograde step to adopt a 20 per cent. standard, and that it would strike a serious blow to the Irish butter industry in the United Kingdom.

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

said the issues of this Bill had been so fully debated that little remained to be said so far as the people were concerned, but, before the debate closed he desired to associate himself with some of the objections made to the Measure. He associated himself with the objection made by the hon. Member for Islington with regard to the drafting of the Bill. It was simply monstrous that hon. Members had to spend hours in the library looking up previous statutes in order to understand it, and it was not to be expected that other people could understand it if Members had to go to this labour in referring to past legislation. Legislation by reference was a very bad system, and if he remembered tightly, the right hon. Gentleman himself in the past, was one of the most ardent critics of that system. It was interesting to observe while they were discussing the basis of the Bill, that the 16 per cent. standard in butter was not included either in this or any previous Hill. What had been done had been to give the Department power to issue a regulation establishing a 16 per cent. standard, and it was necessary to make the Bill plain, if only on that account. He was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman had no intention under his Bill of making adulteration legal, but as the Bill was drafted it would be possible for a trader to sell an adulterated article which only contained 10 per cent. of butter. Very possibly the right hon. Gentleman had it in his mind that the Margarine Act would cover that, but as a fact, it would not do anything of the kind, and therefore he was glad the point was to be considered in Committee. The only other point to which he wished to refer was identical treatment. If they were going to set up a standard for butter, everybody must be treated alike, and upon that question he hoped the hon. Gentleman would keep an open mind. If the standard was to be 16 per cent., let it be so, and if it was proved that Irish butter could not be made at 16 per cent., then he would say rather than have two standards they should split the difference and say it should be 18 per cent. all round. He believed in the long run that would be found to the interests of the Bill, and the Irish firkin butter industry as well. To retain a time limit he believed would be most dangerous.


said it was a new departure to sanction the sale of an article of food as an adulterated article, but it was perfectly right because, if the proportion of water was too great, the vendor would be liable. If this new departure was adopted he hoped it would be carried a great deal further, because one of the difficulties they met with in dealing with adulterated food products was the label on the articles themselves. It was possible for a man to mix his coffee or cocoa, and sell it as a mixture, in a neat package with an attractive label, accompanied by all manner of commendatory epithets. But who were imposed upon? The innocent person who took a fortnight's holiday in the country would naturally want to buy some country butter, and in the shop, alongside the good country butter, he would find somebody's milk-blended butter, done up in a nice little basket and so forth. Such a person really did not know he was buying milk-blended butter, and that was the class that required to be protected. He should support the Bill because it was intended to bring home to the purchaser what he was buying, and to render it impossible for the operation of the Food and Drugs Act to be defeated by the dealer sheltering himself behind some description of the mixture. The Bill took a long step in the direction of honest trading, and would protect a great industry; on that ground he should give it his cordial support.

MR. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W. R., Keighley)

said there was no doubt that milk-blended butter was being sold, but who was injured thereby? The person who bought it was not, because he knew perfectly well what he was buying and desired to have it. The butter was supposed to be improved by the process to which it had been subjected, and if the public desired to have butter in that form he did not see why they should not have it. If it was possible to improve butter in ways not yet discovered, there was no reason why it should not be done, so long as the butter itself suffered no detriment. This particular article was simply an improved form of butter, and it was a mistake to call it adulterated butter.


said that so far as the part of the country with which he was connected was concerned the right hon. Gentleman could rest assured that his Bill had the thorough approval of all interested. He hoped that when the measure got into Committee the right hon. Gentleman would not allow himself to be carried away by the suggestions which had been made, but would stand by the Bill, which had the approval of the vast majority of the people of the country.

MR. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)

, while agreeing that the phrase "adulterated butter" was an awkward one, thought the Bill deserved to go upstairs to the Grand Committee to be carefully considered in the light of the evidence, which would no doubt be referred to. There were, however, some important points in regard to which the Bill would require alteration. If there was one thing more important than another, it was that there should be no deterioration in the standard as set forth in a measure of this kind. If anything the standard should be raised rather than lowered, because all the progress and improvement of dairy operations tended in that direction.

MR. O'MARA (Kilkenny, S.)

contended that a time limit in the case of Irish butter would not meet the case, as the districts concerned would not be able to alter their methods in the time which had been suggested. At the same time he was strongly of opinion that a universal standard should be set up. But Irish firkin butter could not be brought within the 16 per cent. limit, and it was very doubtful whether all creamery and non-salted butter could be. The figures of the Cork Butter Market Trustees which had been quoted went to prove that 16 per cent. was an unworkable standard. He largely sympathised with the view that the proposed exemption would cast a slur on all Irish butter, and, therefore, would like to see a universal standard adopted. He would much prefer 20 per cent. to 16 per cent., but, failing 20 per cent., would like to see 18 per cent. fixed as the standard. The Bill was a very confused measure, and contained Clauses which no one could understand. Admittedly the measure did not do away with adulteration or with the milk blending of butter. He should like to see a stop put to fraud of all kinds in connection with food. This Bill allowed milk-blended butter up to 20 per cent. Why did the right hon. Gentleman not put a stop to this milk blending of butter altogether and adopt a standard that would be satisfactory to everybody?

MR. O'MALLEY (Galway, Connemara)

said that in the general interest of the Irish butter industry he was sorry to differ from some of his own colleagues upon this matter. The hon. Member for Cork favoured 16 per cent., while others favoured 20 per cent. of water. He was disposed to support the view expressed by his hon. colleague from the north of Ireland, who suggested that to meet the difficulties which were inevitable the best course would be to assume a medium course and fix the standard of butter at 18 per cent. water. He should be sorry to see the Irish firkin butter trade injured by this change, and he strongly recommended the right hon. Gentleman to carefully consider whether the medium course of a universal standard of 18 per cent. could not be adopted.


said if the House would allow him he should be glad to withdraw his Motion, because he was satisfied with the undertaking given by the President of the Board of Agriculture.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time.


I move that this Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Trade.


pointed out that the Committee on Law was practically idle, and he thought if this Bill were referred to that Committee, it would go through quicker. He suggested that it should be referred to the Standing Committee on Law instead of the Standing Committee on Trade.


said he hoped his right hon. friend would not consent to that course, because there had been more Bills recently sent to the Standing Committee on Law. To refer this measure to a legal Committee would have the effect of leaving out those hon. Members who were interested in agricultural matters.

LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)

thought this was a Measure which ought rather to go to the Standing Committee on Trade.


said he felt that this Bill ought not to be sent to a Committee at all. It was a measure of such general interest that it ought not to be referred to any Committee, because many hon. Members who took a keen interest in the subject would be deprived of any opportunity of taking part in the discussions on this Bill if it were sent to a Committee upstairs.


thought this measure would get through a Committee of the House in about an hour, and he did not think it should be sent to a Committee upstairs.


said he thought the right hon. Gentleman would probably get his Bill quicker through a Committee of the House than by sending it upstairs. He did not think this was a measure which ought to be passed quietly upstairs, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to take the measure in the House.

Committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, etc.